Thursday, January 19, 2017

Easy, Fast, Vegan. Can't Beat These Beets.

Indian beets, beets, vegan beets
   
   We grow a lot of our own produce at our place here in Sonoma. Every year when it's time to plant I think about what I like to cook, what vegetables I'm always shopping for, and those are the ones I choose. We xeriscaped our property when we bought it, took out the fountain out back, and the lawns in the front and back, kept the roses, planted fruit trees and herbs and in the back put 7 large raised growing beds. What we get out of these supplies a LOT of vegetables. Everything in the garden is on a drip system which is connected to NOAA by wifi which controls water consumption, and we renovated to CalGreen standards which brings out the DoomsDay Prepper in me. Next up, a cistern and grey water system, but for now we got a whole lot of veggies with the minimum of water and lot of chicken manure.
    
   One vegetable we always grow, because we like it and it's used in so many Indian recipes are beets. After the big storms we had last week and the ones coming/we are in the middle of this week, I harvested several pounds of beets and several pounds of potatoes. The potatoes are laid away in cold storage in the garage. Some have been separated out as seed potatoes for this springs garden, others stored for eating. The beets are going to be roasted, vacuum sealed, and frozen. But before they go into the deep freeze, we're enjoying some of them for lunch.

      
   Beets are great vegetables and I never really appreciated them until I started cooking and eating fresh ones rather then those things my mom would always reheat out of a jar. I'm a great believer that most vegetables people hate translate to "you've just been eating them wrong" meaning cooked the wrong way. That seems to work with a lot of things... except maybe okra... in my husbands' case. I did plant some two years ago but it mysteriously never came up. I don't know whether he had something to do with that or not, it remains a mystery. Beets however don't need any persuading around our house and I've got a simple traditional Indian recipe that makes cooking them a snap.

Beets With Indian Spices


Here's What You Need: 

2 or 3 large beets
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder  (or 1/4 tsp paprika mixed with 1/4 tsp cayenne which can in a pinch be a substitute)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)


Here's What To Do:
 
The first thing to do is prep your beets , The easiest way to do that is to roast them. This is how to do it with the least muss and fuss. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

1: Wash the beets off and dry them.
2 : Trim the beet tops to about an inch.
3: Rub the beets with some vegetable oil and wrap them individually in  foil this prevents beet leakage which can make ones oven resemble a murder scene.
4: Place the wrapped beets on a cookie sheet and bake them for about 45 minutes to an hour. Unwrap them a bit to check. When a fork goes into them easily they're done.
5: Either unwrap them and let them cool, to use them immediately.  Or keep them wrapped and cool them on the counter then place them in the fridge overnight for use the next day.

Now that the beets are roasted here's what's next.

WARNING: These beets are going to leak either way the minute you cut into them, so I usually use surgical gloves that one can get at any drugstore when working with them. I have a box of them for culinary use for beets and chilies.


Cut the tops off the beets.
Cut the bottom off the beets.
You can at this point slip the skin off of them with a paring knife or just trim it away easily.
Naked beets!
Cut the beets into small cubes, about 1/2 inch.



Get  your spices ready, because this dish cooks up pretty fast once the beets are roasted.


In a skillet or kadhai heat the vegetable oil.
When the oil is hot  toss in the mustard seeds and the curry leaves if you are using them.


When the mustard seeds start to pop and the curry leaves sizzle toss in the beets.


Turn the heat down to medium and add in the turmeric.


Stir it around well, then cover the pan and let things cook for about 5 minutes.


Take the lid off, give things a good stir and add in the salt and chili.


Keep the lid off the pan and cook for another 5  minutes or so. You want to make sure everything is well blended and nothing is sticking or burning, so give it a good stir every now and then.
When the beets are nice and tender, they're good to go.
Take out the curry leaves and dish them up.


I have several of these tiffin boxes which fit perfectly into my bike basket for an Indian picnic... HOWEVER, since it was pouring rain outside we just ate in the kitchen. They're mighty cute little boxes though.


 So there it is, a simple easy to fix Indian side dish, which goes really well with any other sort of food you're cooking, Indian or not. It may just change your mind about beets. Coming up next, working my way through the root cellar (wish I had one) Follow along on
Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Year, A New You, Clean Up Your Act But Don't Surrender the Taste.

    
   The holidays have come and gone, lots of feasting and indulging of all sorts. Speaking for myself, I ate a bunch of stuff over the last month that I usually don't indulge in during the rest of the year... but that's what holidays are for. Now it's January 7th. The tree is down, the wreath is gone from above the fireplace, and the front door. The pine cones and pillar candles are put away until next December. It's time to clean up the old dietary act. 

   Being raised in an Italian American household, we managed to prolong this holiday waaaaaay beyond January 1st by celebrating Three Kings Day... aka The Feast of the Epiphany. Now the operative word here is feast, which is what most of us have been doing too much of... so it's a new year and time to tighten our belts and gird our loins. However, our belts are already tight enough thank you very much and so the question is what to eat that is tasty, satisfying, and a whole lot cleaner in the big picture than this stuff....


...and this stuff...


   So turning to the foods of India, there's Kitchari also called Kitcheree. This word translates as "mixture" or "mess" or as it was known in the Old Testament  A Mess of Pottage. Kitcharee is a blend of lentils and rice, cooked together very simply... toss in some vegetables and now it's a party! Except this party is actually good for you. This dish is India's comfort food. Similar dishes are found all over Africa and Asia and the Americas. Called by different names, Congee, Kedgeree, or Chili, they all do the same thing, they're easy to digest and they have the same effect as Chicken Soup for whatever ails you.

   Recipes for kitcheree are found in all sorts of Ayurvedic cookbooks and the idea here is to keep it simple. Of course you don't have to keep it simple and that ls the beauty of this dish. You can add the spices you want and the vegetables you want, or add none at all. It doesn't get any easier than that cookingwise. Here's a simple kitcheree recipe you can have on the table in about 25 minutes. Toss in whatever vegetables or spices you like, just know that this is the starter kit. The basic, take it from here.

Simple Kitcheree


Here's What you Need: 
3 Tbs vegetable oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup of Basmati rice
1 cup of moong dal
6 cups of warm water
2 cups of your favorite vegetable 
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cliantro
lemon wedges

Here's What To Do:
Get your spices ready.


Heat the oil in a pot or kadhai.
When the oil is hot and shimmering add in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and turmeric.


Stir everything around when it starts to get aromatic and the mustard seeds start to pop.


Add in the rice...


...and the dal.


Stir things around for a minute or two to warm up the rice and dal then add in the water.


Add in the salt and the vegetables. I used fresh baby spinach leaves and some of our homegrown butternut squash crop.


Bring everything to a boil and when it does...


...put the lid on the pot, lower the heat to simmer, and let it cook for about 25 minutes.


After 25 minutes, take the lid off, stir things around, and mix in the chopped cilantro.
Dish it up.


Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over it, and you can also drizzle a bit of melted ghee over things if you really want to be bad (hey, why not?) It adds a nice rich buttery flavor to the dish.


As I said before, you can make this just as it is simple and plain and good for what ails you or you can jazz it up a bit with more spices, onions, you name it. You are the boss of this kitcheree. Also since this is the start of the New Year, if you want to get into more Indian Cooking check out our shop at  The Chaunk. 




   Get everything you need to start cooking the Kitcheree recipe above and all sorts of other easy  Indian dishes at home, and if you sign up for our email list right now, you'll get 10% off The Chaunk kit from now until Jan 15th to start your New Years eating adventures off right. Coming up next, eat fresh even in the Winter. Indian recipes for your seasonal menu. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

An Easy Indian Comfort Food Recipe to Get the New Year Started Right

   
   Like a lot of people this time of year, I have spent the greater part of the last month immersed in cooking. Cooking for holidays, cooking for guests, and just plain cooking for just us chickens as my mom used to say. Once the holidays start to wind down a bit, I'm interested in clean and simple food for the remaining Winter months ahead. For a country associated with hot hot weather, the Indian kitchen has some great recipes that work really well when the temperatures have gone waaaay down there. Of course, being a native Californian what some of us consider cold, others just laugh at, but either way it feels good this time of year to put something warm in the belly... especially if that something requires a minimum of work... oh and healthy wouldn't hurt either.

   So, that's why I got a jump on the New Year eating and fixed a simple dal lunch the other day. I mean really simple. Like, boiling water simple. Except you don't even have to do that. I'm talking open the oven door and shove it in there simple. Can't beat that, especially at this time of year. So, without further ado....Easy Baked Dal.

Oven Baked Dal


Here's What You Need:
1 cup of channa dal
1 and 1/4 pints of water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 Tbs ghee or unsalted butter
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 small onion finely chopped
1/2 tsp kashmiri chili
1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro

Here's What To Do:
Wash and rinse the dal
soak it in 1 and 1/4 pints of water for at least 2 hours or even better overnight. I usually soak it overnight.
Drain the dal after soaking.


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the soaked dal into an oven proof dish and add in 1 and 1/4 pints fresh water.


Stir in the ground turmeric...


...and salt.


Mix everything together well.


Put a lid on the dish and place it in the oven.


Bake for about 1 and 1/2 hours or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the dal is tender.
Now for the chaunk:
In a skillet heat the ghee or the unsalted butter until it's foamy.


Add in the chopped ginger and chopped onion...


...and stir it around well until the onion is browned and turning crispy.
Now, add in the kashmiri chili.


Stir it around for a few minutes then pour it all into the cooked dal.


Mix it in well, then add in the chopped fresh cilantro.


Check for seasoning and serve it up.


Add a bit more cilantro for color.


And you are in business.


   There it is. Serve it up with chapattis and you've got a meal. If you're adding in anything else (salad, meat, fish)  it's jelly on the jelly.  This is good, warming, healthy and once you get it into the oven, easy peasy. The perfect antidote to a month of fancy pants eating and drinking, this dal will make you feel virtuous and as if you are following through on all your new Years resolutions whether you are or not.
 
   Coming up next, some healthier options to get the month of January off to a great start. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Holidays (And Guests) Are Upon Us So If You're Coming To Sonoma, Check This Out!



   I live in a tourist town. I suppose I always have in one form or another. I grew up in San Francisco (where I was the little kid sticking my tongue out at tourists at the Powell and Market cable car turnaround) definitely a tourist town. I've lived for years in Santa Monica which I never thought of as a tourist town... though there are a lot of vacationers there, and now we're in Sonoma, aka Wine Country California... which hosts visitors from all over the world who come here to sip and savor the wine, gourmet food, and the rural atmosphere.

   I'm always asked by friends where do we go, what do we see when we visit Sonoma County? One way to check out local events anywhere you are is to use Eventbrite to look up and purchase tickets on line for all sorts of local happenings. I've used them myself to buy tickets to events going on here in Sonoma... and also just to find out what's happening locally. So now I've changed from the kid sticking her tongue out at tourists, and I'm willing to share my town.

   Over the years I've given a lot of recommendations on places to eat drink and be merry here in Sonoma during all sorts of  holidays, and Summer vacations. Christmas time is magical here in Sonoma. The plaza glows with lights.


 The whole town shines.


There are events at The Mission with docents in costume...


...and of course caroling inside.


During the Winter holiday season we get a LOT of visitors to our town, and I'm frequently asked about where to go and what to see. I always talk about my favorites and now I have a new favorite to add, CocoaPlanet Tasting Room and Modern French Cafe.


 If you read this blog with any regularity, I've written about working with the CocoaPlanet people Anne and Jeff McKibben on their gluten free Modern French menu. They've finished constructing their chocolate factory where all the delicious CocoaPlanet is made, and now they've added their tasting room along with a Modern French Cafe. Here's part of the restaurant and tasting bar...


A great place to curl up in front of the fire with a mug of hot cocoa...


...and of course the garden, made for outside dining and relaxing near the fire pit.


CocoaPlanet opened about a month ago, just in time for holiday entertaining, and they're serving all sorts of tasty stuff there, from Cassoulet to Crepes. All of the food and chocolate is certified gluten free since Anne and her family are gluten intolerant.

   This is a real neighborhood place, locally owned and operated. Anne and her family live just a few blocks from us and I can easily ride my bike to CocoaPlanet, a good idea when one is enjoying such tasty chocolate. I've been working with her organic, free trade, vegan and gluten free chocolate for several years now in my cooking and I love it. One reason is it's also naturally low in sugar thanks to their patented Pearls of Flavor process. When Anne asked me last year to sign on and help develop gluten free savories and desserts for the new Tasting Room I was in!       

   Even though I'm not gluten intolerant many of our friends are, and over the years I've developed a number of flour blends that work for anything from cakes to breads. With what they're serving up at CocoaPlanet, you'll never miss the gluten, in fact you won't even notice it's not there. The menu is locally sourced and changes seasonally and includes Pizza Provencal...


...garden tomato soup  with gluten free cheese gougeres...


...Little Gem Lettuce Salad with Cypress Grove goat cheese, sunflower seeds and tangerine...


...Croque Monseiur on delicious gluten free bread from a local bakery...


...Croque Madame...


...Carrot Potato Soup...


All the desserts are totally gluten free and made by our talented pastry chefs in-house. Apple Walnut Tart with Fig Glaze...


..."Edible Dirt" with a Chocolate Pots de Creme...


...Pear Almond Tart...


...Pear Almond Cake...


...Fig Gallete...


...Dark Chocolate Bouchons...


...and Brownies.


These are just some of the things you might find on the menu.

   So if you have friends and family visiting Sonoma this Holiday Season, after you've checked out our Plaza, sung some carols, looked at all the lights, and vineyards, I'd suggest you drop by CocoaPlanet. Say "Hi! " to Anne and Jeff, enjoy a fine tea or espresso, sample some chocolate, eat a meal and take some chocolate home with you.

   It's been really thrilling to watch our friends build this place with love from the ground up  so that's my Holiday recommendation this year. Also, if you're planning an event or just want to find out what's going on locally around your town check out Eventbrite.

Coming up next, more Holiday treats and fast meals for company follow along on Twitter @kathygori

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